Dangers & Annoyances

  • Some folks may tell you that anywhere east of I-35 is dangerous. While there is some truth to that, overt or covert racism – this is a predominantly African American and Latino part of town – may exaggerate claims of danger.
  • One major complaint is drunken college students letting it all hang out on 6th St. It's a party atmosphere, and if you're drunkenly counting your cash and appraising your jewelry in an alley at 2am, you're as likely to encounter interest here as anywhere else.
  • Transients and panhandlers congregate downtown near Congress Ave, especially from 4th through 7th Sts. Keep your wits about you when returning to your car at night, or hail a taxi (or a pedicab).
  • Austin natives claim they live in the allergy capital of America, and at any time of year residents and visitors are likely to sneeze and wheeze. If you're at all susceptible, especially to pollen or mold, bring proper medication.

Police Stations

Discount Cards

AAA Membership in the American Automobile Association provides access to hotel room discounts, and some reduced admission as well as roadside assistance.

Seniors If you are over the age of 65, discount rates on hotel rooms and attractions may be available. Having an American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) card is not usually required.

Students An ISIC or official school ID card often gets you discounts on admission to museums and other attractions.

Emergency & Important Numbers

Most, but not all, numbers require you to dial the area code even when you are within the city.

Country code1
International dialing code011
Emergency (ambulance, police & fire)911
Directory assistance411

Etiquette

  • Greetings As throughout the US, greetings that would be construed as personal inquiries in most cultures (How are you?) are generally meant as pleasantries rather than serious inquiries.
  • Interacting with strangers Similarly, the informality of the American mindset makes interactions between strangers relatively common. Don't be surprised if strangers initiate conversations unexpectedly.
  • Taboo topics Religion, politics, and sex are often best left for discussion with only the closest of friends in the United States.

Gay & Lesbian Travellers

Although Texas is generally conservative, Austin and the larger cities have gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. But note that outside of Pride days and Austin in general, you won't see sexual preference being flaunted. In rural areas, displays of affection may draw negative attention from locals. We advise not trying it.

Insurance

Taking out a travel insurance policy to cover theft, lost tickets and medical problems is a good idea in the USA, where some privately run hospitals refuse care without evidence of insurance and costs can be far higher than in most developed nations. These policies are offered by travel agencies, your airline and others. Different policies cover different circumstances, so always check the fine print.

Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/bookings. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.

Checking insurance quotes…

Internet Access

Free public internet access is available at any public-library branch; call 512-974-7301 for hours and locations. Many coffee shops around town have free wi-fi.

Faulk Central Public Library Downtown; has dozens of wired terminals.

Hideout Coffee House & Theatre Downtown.

Bennu Join the mass of UT students; 24-hour.

FedEx Office

Media

Newspapers & Magazines

Austin American-Statesman (www.statesman.com) The respected daily newspaper. It maintains the website Austin360 (www.austin360.com) which provides restaurant and entertainment reviews.

Austin Chronicle (www.austinchronicle.com) Free alternative weekly with independent coverage of local politics and the lowdown on the Austin music, food and performing-arts scenes.

Radio

Most of the following stations do live-streaming broadcasts online, so you can eavesdrop on Austin before you arrive.

KGSR 93.3 FM (www.kgsr.com) 'Radio Austin' is an eclectic station that airs lots of local talent; check out the 'Lone Star State of Mind' broadcasts from 10pm to 11pm every Sunday.

KOOP 91.7 FM (www.koop.org) Austin's community-radio station has excellent local flavor and multicultural programming; Jay Robillard's ever-popular The Lounge Show spins 'hi-fi kitschy fun' from 10am until noon on Saturday.

KUTX 98.9 FM (www.kutx.org) The long-running shows Eklektikos (6am to 9am Monday to Thursday) focus on central Texas music (not to be confused with the all-news station KUT 90.5).

KVRX 91.7 FM (www.kvrx.org) The UT student-radio station shares its bandwidth and sensibilities with KOOP. It plays 'none of the hits, all of the time.'

Money

Credit cards are widely accepted, and they are generally required for reservations and car rentals.

ATMs

ATMs accepting most network and credit cards are easily found, except in the most popular nightlife areas, where privately owned ATMs (look for them inside convenience stores or often right on the street) charge exorbitant transaction fees.

Changing Money

Bank of America exchanges foreign currency and traveler's checks. There is an exchange service at the airport, too.

Tipping

Tipping is not optional. Service employees make minimum wage and rely on tips.

  • Bars Tip 15% to 20%, at least $1 per round.
  • Hotel Bank on $10 to $20 for concierges if they do a lot for you.
  • Housekeeping Though not as widely expected as other tips, if service is good, $5 per stay.
  • Restaurants Depending on level of service, 15% to 20%.
  • Taxi Tip 10% to 15% of fare.

Opening Hours

Individual opening hours are included in reviews; below are generalities. Sight and activity hours vary throughout the year and may decrease during the shoulder and low seasons.

Banks 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday

Restaurants 11am to 2pm and 5pm to 10pm, often without breaks.

Cafes 7am to 8pm

Night clubs 8pm to 2am

Shops 9am to 6pm Monday to Saturday, 11am to 6pm Sunday

Post

Postal service in the US is generally reliable and fast. Up to date information on rates and office locations can be found on the USPS website (www.usps.com).

Downtown Austin Post Office

Public Holidays

Banks, schools, and government offices (including post offices) are closed on major holidays. Public holidays that fall on a weekend are often observed on the following Monday.

New Year's Day January 1

Confederate Heroes' Day January 19

Martin Luther King Jr Day Third Monday in January

President's Day Third Monday in February

Texas Independence Day March 2

Easter Sunday March/April

Memorial Day Last Monday in May

Independence Day July 4

Labor Day First Monday in September

Columbus Day Second Monday in October

Veterans Day November 11

Thanksgiving Fourth Thursday in November

Christmas Day December 25

Smoking

Although smoking in public is legal under Texas state law, it is not allowed in some public venues in Austin. Smoking is banned in city parks, libraries, buses or within 15 feet of any pedestrian entrance. The ban includes bars and restaurant establishments. Smoking in private residence is okay. In a hotel, use designated smoking rooms.

Telephone

Mobile Phones

Local prepaid SIM cards are widely available, though network reception can be spotty in rural areas. Only foreign phones that operate on tri- or quad-band frequencies will work in the USA.

Phone Codes

In many areas, local calls have moved to a 10-digit calling system. This means you must dial the area code, even when making a local call.

Country code 1

International dialing code 011

Time

Central Standard Time Austin and most of Texas is an hour behind New York (Eastern time), two hours ahead of Los Angeles (Pacific time), and five hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

Daylight Savings Time In effect in most of the US from early spring to late fall; clocks 'spring forward' one hour in March and 'fall back' one hour in November.

Tourist Information

The bulletin boards found outside coffeehouses, cafes and grocery stores are a great source of news about local events, special activities and classified ads.

Austin Visitor Information Center Maps, brochures and gift shop downtown.

Capitol Visitors Center Stop here for self-guided tour maps of the capitol and tourist information about Austin and the state.

Travel with Children

Austin is kid-friendly, thanks to the casual south-central Texas lifestyle. Zilker Park is always a good bet for outdoor fun, with loads of indoor and outdoor options.

Recommendations

  • Zilker Zephyr

Take a ride around Zilker Park on a miniature train.

  • Barton Springs

Cool off in this ginormous natural pool with icy-cold water.

  • Texas Memorial Museum

Dinosaur fun on the UT campus, particulalrly in the form of a flying Pterosaur skeleton.

  • Thinkery

A new and much larger space for the former Austin Children's Museum equals more fun for the little ones.

Travellers with Disabilities

Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.

Public Spaces

Guide dogs May legally be brought into restaurants, hotels and other businesses.

Lodging Most hotels and motels have rooms set aside for disabled guests.

Public buildings Hotels, restaurants, theaters, museums etc. Required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to be wheelchair accessible and have accessible restroom facilities

Road crossings Street crossings are dangerous in Austin, with dozens of fatalities over the years. City Council has been considering audible crossing signals, but they are not yet in use.

Resources

  • Access-able Travel Source (www.access-able.com) Travel information and links.
  • Mobility International USA (www.miusa.org) Advises disabled travelers.
  • Wheelchair Getaways (www.accessible-minivans.com/texas-austin.htm) Van rental.